Everyone knows that Goa is the party capital of the country. But apart from having some of the most amazing beaches and islands, Goa has so much more to offer. Our guide to experiencing Goa will reveal the fascinating history of the city and its amazing offbeat experiences amongst other things. You might know Goa for its vibrant nightlife, its beaches or the Portugese heritage, but what you may not know is this.
Goa is also believed to be the first land in India that was occupied by one of the earliest forms of human life. In fact, there are still rock art engravings which share evidence to the same. Isn’t that fantastic? The party capital of India has an interesting history that goes much beyond colonisation. So here’s a bit more about the city’s history and where its culture finds its roots.
History and culture of Goa
Goa is hands down the best place in India to discover what our species was like before we were categorized into different religions. After all, Dabolim, amongst other places in Goa display evidence that our prehistoric Stone Age ancestors once inhabited the land. You can find a number of rock art engravings of different creatures, in Kajur. Fast forward to the 3rd century BC, where the land was ruled by Ashoka the Great of Magadha Kingdom. All of Goa fell under the Maurya Dynasty during that period. This was the reason why Buddhism became prominent in the region.
Goa was very different before it became a place that attracted a massive number of people from foreign lands. If anything, it is a place that was ruled by a number of emperors hailing from different dynasties and descendents, from the Bhojas and Chutu Dynasty to the Chalukyas. But all of that started to slowly change after the Portugese colonised the state and took power in 1510. The colourful buildings and intricate details of churches that we all find fascinating are traces of Portugese architecture in Goa. The Altinho Hill in the Panaji area is one of the places to witness the beautiful Portugese heritage.
Goa and Portugal still maintain a strong relationship. While other colonial empires in India, like the British treated their Indian strongholds as colonies. The likes of Goa, Daman and Diu were treated as overseas territories of Portugal, thus conferring the population of Goa with Portuguese. A right that citizens of goa can and their descendants can still claim(Birth before 1961, )
In terms of the culture of Goa, what we tend to forget is that despite being q pocket sized Goa is still a state, a state that has seen a lot of trends and fads come and pass it by and yet all these different times find their home in Goa. In Old Goa and southern part of Goa, you’re likely to find a lot of temples that have been around for centuries. Then there’s Panjim and the northern parts of Goa, where you can easily spot the Portuguese connection, and find yourself witnessing a lot of beautiful Portuguese churches and a lot of Portuguese houses.
Goa was at the periphery of the Hippie Revolution in the 1970’s, as hippies from across the world found their home in this, unpretentious, accommodating and perhaps even a little tipsy state. Today, despite being a popular tourist destination, you can still find remnants of the times gone by, especially in North Goa, which is still home to some of the coolest rave parties in the country ( looking at you Shiva Valley) and the hippie flea market in Anjuna.
From a food perspective, if you love seafood, welcome to heaven. The staple diet of Goa is seafood and rice and a lot of the food has coconut as one of the main ingredients so if you like these 3 things you are sorted. The food in Goa has amazing variety, you can find portuguese style cuisine, cuisine that is influenced from the Konkan region and the more commonly found fast-food that you find across the country.
Some of the more popular dishes you must try in Goa, are the Sorpotel, Fried Pork fat that is cooked in a meat gravy, A dish that is the equivalent of wine, in the way that the older it gets the better it tastes, is the Pork Vindaloo. The dish consists of Pork, cooked in garlic, onions, spices, occasionally potatoes and primarily vinegar. The more the dish marinates the better the taste of the meat. For the vegetarians, Goa is pretty much a part of India and just like anywhere else, finding Indian food in Goa is not hard at all and you’re sure to find most of the Indian food that you find anywhere else in the country.
How to get to Goa
By Air – Goa has both a domestic and an international airport and is well connected to most major cities by air, the one challenge with flying into Goa though, is that, the airport is situated in the middle of nowhere, and a mafia esque taxi union means, you are going to shell out a significant sum of money to get to and from the airport
By Rail – Goa is extremely well connected by rail, especially to most places in South India and the major cities in the North. There are a lot of overnight and day train options from Mumbai (the closest metro to Goa). We recommend taking the train or driving to Goa, as the rail stations are extremely well located to all major parts of the city.
By Road – Driving down to Goa from Mumbai has always been the ultimate road trip for most people from Mumbai. However, if the trains are sold out and the flights don’t make sense anymore and you don’t have a car, we recommend taking an overnight bus. The bus journey to Goa is quite economical and a relatively comfortable ride.
Best time to travel to Goa
The best time to visit is anytime between October and April, the weather is really pleasant around this time and there’s a lot of outdoor events from November onwards, as the weather gets really really pleasant. While the summer’s in Goa can be hot it is not as unbearable and is still absolutely doable. There won’t be as much activity as compared to the winter though.
It’s proper off-season during the monsoons, but unlike other places in the country, Goa is green and beautiful during the monsoons. A word of caution though, rains can play spoilsport to your sightseeing plans.
Getting Around Goa
Cabs are ridiculously overpriced in Goa, there’s a reason why Ola and Uber are not allowed in the entire state and that’s due to the taxi union that has strong armed all independent cab drivers into falling in line. If you can drive a car or ride a scooter in Goa, that’s the best way of getting from one place to another and is much more economical due to the relatively relaxed fuel prices.
While the state bus transit network in Goa is steadily improving, it’s not there yet. But if you do have a lot of time on your hands and can’t drive or ride a vehicle it is definitely not as bad an option as you would initially think.
Breaking stereotypes about Goa
Goa is a party destination or a vaction destination
While this stereotype holds true and Goa is one of the most happening cities when it comes to nightlife in the whole world, along with being the favorite Indian destination to unwind, there’s so much more to Goa.
Goa has a lot of history and since it is extremely rich when it comes to the cultural side of things, beautiful churches, uncompromising forts and bustling markets. The more you explore Goa the more layers you discover to this amazing city-state and the worlds that not only live but thrive in this beautiful sunshine state.
For the Nightlife – The stretches of Calangute and Baga have a lot of shacks that are popular with Indian tourists, some of the more popular ones are the legendary Tito’s and St. Anthony’s which is known for its Karaoke scene. Head to Shiva Valley on a Tuesday night for a crazy night of dancing to trance.
Anjuna and Vagator beaches are more popular when it comes to the rave scene while Arambol up north is becoming a hotspot both for the spiritual seekers and the trance enthusiasts.
If you’re in south goa away from the party scene and craving some adventure. Head to Leopard Valley on a Friday night for a crazy party with pyrotechnique and laser shows, somewhere around a jungle.
For the culture – Panjim is primarily where you should be based out of as it’s quite central to both the North and South, explore the sleepy town the churches around Panjim, Panjim also has an interesting street, the 18th june road, a revolutionary road, that hosted the meeting to end Portuguese rule in India, is today an interesting shopping street that goes right through the heart of the city
Beaches you should visit
– Anjuna and Vagator for its parties (North Goa)
– Calangute and Baga for the nightlife (Central / North Goa)
– Arambol and Morjim for the hippy vibe (Up North Goa)
– Palolem, Colva, Patnem and Agonda to vacation and unwind. (South Goa)
For the adventure seekers – Apart from all the water sports that are possible in Goa, you can also visit the Dudhsagar Waterfalls in South Goa or the Chapora Fort near Anjuna for a moderate level hike.